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Friday, May 21, 2010TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ Mackenzie Tucker didn’t win any postseason honors, but the junior left fielder has been one of the brightest stars in postseason for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons.
Saturday afternoon in a 4-1 win over UAB at the Alabama Softball Complex in the first game of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional Tucker led all batters with three hits, including a double to left field, the first hit of the game.
It was her fifth straight game in postseason to get a hit, going back to the Atlantic Sun Tournament last week. Saturday afternoon the Lady Bisons, 49-11, face Alabama, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament at 1:30. If the Lady Bisons are going to challenge the Crimson Tide, 49-9, they will be counting on players like Tucker to come through for them.
“I can’t say enough about the boost Mac gave us right off the bat with the double to left in the first inning,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “It definitely calmed everybody a little bit.
“Mac is a very smart player. She understands the game extremely well. On the biggest stage today she stood out big time. She is in a zone right now hitting –wise and it is perfect timing.”
One of the keys for Tucker was being able to mentally block out the Alabama surroundings and concentrate on her work in the field and at the plate.
“I thought back to when we played UAB on our home field,” Tucker said. “I pictured us at Lipscomb on our home field without all of this Alabama stuff around. I was able to stay focused, and if I am focused I am able to hit the ball.
“I go up to the plate with confidence in what is working for me. If the slap is working then I am going to slap. If my hitting is working I am going to hit. I go with what I feel comfortable with at the time.”
All of the Lady Bisons will have to find a way to ignore sea of red that fills the stadium. Ryman found the crowd of more than 2,200 fans, and the atmosphere their cheers and shouts produced, to be an exciting back drop.
“I think it is a pretty neat thing to be able to play in front of such a big crowd,” Ryman said. “Obviously, it is a biased crowd. They are here to support their team.
“But I think anytime you can play in an environment like this it is exciting. We don’t have the opportunity to do that very often so to do it, regardless of where it is, is a pretty cool thing.”
Kiihnl getting attention: Both the players from other teams and the media are taking notice of Lady Bisons pitcher Whitney Kiihnl. “Obviously, their pitcher is very talented,” Alabama shortstop Whitney Larson said. “Her numbers say a lot about her skills. If we stay disciplined at the plate and our game, then we’ll be fine.”
The Crimson Tide beat Alcorn State Friday night 9-0 in five innings. Alabama had nine hits, led by second baseman Kayla Braud with three hits and four runs batted in. One of her hits was a three-run homer.
Kiihnl knows the talent level of the Crimson Tide, but she is taking it all in stride. She would like to maintain her earned run average, the best in the nation.
“Alabama is one of the best hitting teams in the nation, if not the best,” Kiihnl said. “I’m going to have to be very confident and just throw my game.
“If they hit it, they hit it. If they don’t, they don’t. That’s the way it goes.”
Kiihnl has won a number of awards this season, but she remains humble. Ryman knows she doesn’t have to worry about Kiihnl every becoming over-confident.
“Whitney never walks out on the mound thinking she is going to dominate,” Ryman said. “She walks out and goes about her business and lets it happen.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.